23.01.2008 - 27.01.2008 -5 °C
I secretly hope that my impression of Turkey would change after my encounters in the first 24 hours. When I was offered a private tour by the guidiance of the Open Air Museum for a ridiculously low price and invited for drinks alone by my hotel owner after watching the Whirling Devils on the next day, both were in their late 40s or 50s, I was left feeling quite cynical.
Putting cautions aside, I chose to join others on tours for the next 2 days. The regional tour started out with Derinkuyu, one of the underground cities in the Anatolian plateau 50 kms south of Goreme. Once inhabited by over 20,000 Hittites in 8 levels of narrow tunnels, it had a cross-sized church, school with private study rooms, olive press room, crematory and 15,000 ventilation ducts. Some sections can be closed off by circular stoned doors of more than two feets in depth. After the Assyrians, Persians, Romans and Byzantines ruled this area over thousands of years, these cities are used by early Christians to hide from invaders until Christianity was allowed after Muslim took control in the 11th century.
After lunch at a cave restaurant in Avano catered to group tourists, mostly older japanese and korean in this case, we were taken to a pottery and a jewelery store in Uchisha. I dragged myself through these tourist traps until we were taken to the Fairy Chimneys. These unique conical rock formation caused by the different rate of wind and water erosions on the top volcanic layer of basalt and softer bottom layer of tuff. Plenty of caves are visible and used by early inhabitants for religion and other purposes. The day ended with a chilly hike through the mountain opposite the Rose Valley which turned into a beautiful sea of soft orange during sunset. We drove through vast empty lands with occasional petrol stations before reaching Goreme.
I woke up early next morning in my cave room expecting to see sunrise. To my complete surprise, the town below me had already turned bright white and snow is still falling softly. To hike or not to hike? I wondered back to sleep for another hour. The man who arranged my hiking tour seem to care less about the weather condition, but more to make a few bucks by stuffing me with a group of young Koreans from another agency, even if it means that all the spots are the same as the previous tour except the Ilhara valley. On top of that, I was told that my overnight bus reservation to Istanbul was not made on time and all buses were full.
To make up for my disappointment over this arrangement, my driver took me into a smoky, local cafe with only Muslim men playing cards and games while others went inside the underground city in Derinkuyu. I was greeted by many stares initially but everything goes back to normal after a few seconds.
As a hiker, I put my hope on the Ilhara valley. Fortunately, the slope downhill was paved with concrete steps and walking on slippery snow along the icy river bank was more scenic than I thought. After only a few kilometres, we were treated with a simple lunch in a small restaurant and then taken back to Goreme after dark, leaving me just enough time to climb uphill to my hotel to check out with a hugh bill and rushed down the slippery slope again with my backpack, despite of the previous promise of a ride by the hotel management. They did, however, manage to make a last minute reservation for a bus to Ankara for me. 'Adjust your expectation of hospitality here, you are just another tourist to them,' I kept telling myself.